Big increase in absenteeism among those called up to help at polling stations

At last year’s federal, European and regional elections 2,849 of the people that had been called up to staff polling stations failed to show up. In Belgium, citizens can be called up by their local cantonal electoral office to either staff or preside over a polling station. Those with a valid reason, for example work or car care commitments, must inform the electoral office of this in writing and they are excused for having to work at the polling station. 

However, a growing number of people simply just don’t bother turning up, making life all the more difficult for those that do. At last year’s election on 26 May 2,849 people failed to turn up for polling station duty without a valid reason. This is 20% more than was the case at the local elections in October 2018.

Of these 1,926 have been charged 250 euro each in an out of court settlement, while 900 other appeared in court to explain why they had failed to do their civic duty.

In Belgium preceding over or working at a polling station is considered to be a form of civic duty and the Judicial Authorities take a dim view of those that fail to fulfil this. Most judges issues fines of between 400 and 600 euro to those that fail to show up. The highest fines were for those that failed to turn up at court as well.

Despite the increase in absenteeism, the vast majority of the around 50,000 people called up to work at polling stations turn up and do their duty. 

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